What effect might Britain’s party leaders have on the referendum on the country’s continued European Union membership? In the social sciences it is well known that leaders can have decisive effects on the outcome of elections and referendums. Amid complex debates, it has been shown that citizens often rely on their leaders to provide “informational shortcuts” or “cues” that help them decide how to vote. The same is true for referendums, where leaders can play important roles by helping voters make up their minds about how to vote. All of this raises an intriguing question. What effects will the Conservative Party leader David Cameron, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Ukip leader Nigel Farage have on the public vote? Are they likely to galvanise public support for remaining in the EU, or might their campaigning increase the prospect of Britain leaving the EU? And how do their effects vary across electorates, age groups and social classes?
To answer this question Professor Goodwin, along with his co-investigators Professor Simon Hix (LSE) and Professor Mark Pickup (Simon Fraser University), have carried out an online survey experiment with YouGov, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the London School of Economics and the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. Their experimental design explores the effects of leaders in a far more robust way than a standard poll or survey. Experiments can establish cause and effect while holding other variables constant – in this case testing the effects of leaders on the referendum vote.
For more information on this online survey experiment visit http://whatukthinks.org/eu/cameron-corbyn-and-farage-how-might-they-affect-the-eu-referendum-vote/.